2020 has been filled with stress, anxiety, and unwelcome changes to our working and living environments. 2021 is not that better, but one thing we’ve found is that when life gets tough, the only thing you can do is put your money into yourself.

Instead of wasting space with a list of the most famous blog articles, we dug deep into our research to find the hidden gems that will help you refocus, build mental toughness, and find a sense of peace in an otherwise chaotic world.

person standing in leaves
Source: Mylene

Accept What You Cannot Change

A global pandemic has an uncanny ability to make you understand how little power you have. Unfortunately, it’s not just major external events that can send you into a state of overwhelm.

There are various mental biases that contribute to your workday’s tension. This year, we heard about two of the worst offenders:

Time anxiety is the feeling that there is never enough time and/or that you are not making the most of the time you do have.

  • Shame on productivity: When you never feel like you’ve done enough and/or your work isn’t visible enough, you work harder and make yourself available via email and chat all the time.
  • You have no say of how much time you have in a day or what other people expect of you. Yet, ironically, it is precisely because we have no power over these factors that we devote so much time and energy to them.

Feeling optimistic and calm in the workplace and in life necessitates dealing with problems that are beyond your control. But how do you do that when they’re right in front of you every day?

Stoicism? Is indifference the key? It might be. Let’s say you’ve spilled coffee all over your favourite shirt. Instead of getting angry – think for a second if this will be important to you in a year, heck in 5 days? No right? Don’t drain your energy on such things. It’s quick to dismiss minor annoyances as unimportant. But what about the big issues?

While no one is suggesting that you neglect a health or work-related problem, you can help to mitigate the effects by concentrating on what you can control: your strengths, desires, and intent.

Understanding what really matters to you is the first step–a crucial realization for all of us right now.

Here is Some Free Advice

  • Concentrate on your assets: When we do things that we enjoy or that have personal value for us, we become more inspired and centered. Focus on what you can handle while the rest of the world seems insane.
  • Find out what your secret passions are: Ask yourself these two questions if you’re not sure what gives you personal value. Only those responses that satisfy both requirements are eligible to be kept:
    • What do you excel at?
    • What do you want to do in your spare time?
  • Examine your values in your journal: Self-reflection is a crucial component of mental toughness growth. Journaling on a regular basis is a way to work through your emotions and challenge your decisions in a private setting.

When taken together, these steps form a passion feedback loop, assisting you in discovering, assessing, and reflecting on what matters most to you.

Person writing their journal
Source: Pexels

Deprioritize Things That Bring Stress to You

The secret to productivity is prioritization. As a result, it’s no surprise that one of our most successful articles this year focused on task prioritization. However, there is a dark side to prioritization that few people discuss:

It’s extremely difficult to quit working on anything after you’ve declared it a priority (even if you know you should).

What’s to say, what was a priority a month ago is still a priority today? Being able to quickly reassess what’s important to you, particularly in this time of uncertainty, is a skill that deserves more recognition.

This is referred to as deprioritization.

If prioritizing entails shifting tasks to the top of the to-do list, deprioritization entails removing items from the list entirely. Although it’s easy to deprioritize certain tasks, our brains despise wasting the time and effort we’ve put into things that were once a priority. (More mental prejudices, such as the sunk cost fallacy, completion bias, and the Zeigarnik effect, are to blame.)

Working on the right stuff empowers us and can help us stay focused even in the most trying of circumstances. So, how do you identify and then deprioritize the activities that no longer need your attention?

Woman reading
Source: Pexels

To get you started, here are a few ideas:

  • Set time limits for yourself while working on projects and tasks: To compel you to rethink your goals, create tension at regular intervals.
    Make a list of things you don’t want to do: What are you certain you don’t want to be doing right now (or in the future)?
  • Reevaluate your goals on a weekly basis: A organized method is an excellent way to determine if anything is still valuable to you.
  • Isolate only the most significant aspects of critical activities or projects: Keep in mind that prioritization does not have to be a zero-sum game.
  • Inquire with your coworkers or manager on what they consider to be important: When you’re stuck, seek advice from others.

Already Burned Out? Don’t Worry There is Remedy

In many ways, learning to thrive in a post-pandemic world is a lot like coming back from burnout.

When you’re professionally burnt out, you lose all motivation to work. The things you do feel like they don’t matter. And it becomes harder to focus and be creative. Likewise, the pandemic has been mentally and physically draining, and it’s impossible to think that you can push it aside and operate at 100%.

But millions of people have come back from burnout and found new ways to be motivated, focused, and creative. So what can you learn from them?

For your focus: Build your day around an “anchor task”

You’re more likely to feel unfocused when you’re overwhelmed or have too many things to do. Instead, making progress on a task–no matter how small–is a powerful way to rebuild your motivation and help you stay focused.

man organizing his tasks
Source: Startup Stock Photos

For your passion: Focus on helping others.

In a study of workers across five generations, one of the most common qualities of people with high levels of job satisfaction and happiness was helping others. Helping others can shine a light when you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed. However, it can often be hard to see how your work directly impacts others.

For your creativity: Give yourself permission to fill the well

It’s hard to feel creative when you’ve been stuck indoors for months. But as architect and designer Emily Fischer writes,

“You have to feed yourself creatively. You have to give yourself that creative fuel.”

How you fuel your creativity is up to you, but try to find things that bring you joy and help you disconnect from work. You could go for a walk in nature, play a game online, or even take off an afternoon to watch movies.

Take Advantage of Remote Work

A deep dive into the psychology of why the 8-hour workday should be abolished and how to step forward productively is needed. Research has repeatedly shown that you only have 2.5–3 hours a day to be fully effective. The fact that we’re supposed to produce insightful and innovative work for 2–3X as much time a day is a huge source of stress for most of us.

A lot of it has to do with the 9–5 office atmosphere that we’ve grown used to. With the growth of remote work projected to continue through 2021 and beyond, the question becomes:

Why should you continue to function in a way that is fundamentally ineffective and stressful?

One of the best things you can do as a new remote worker is to adjust the way you handle your day if your job allows it. Take advantage of your independence and versatility to build a schedule that fits you. This means realizing that productivity is rarely a matter of time, but rather of resources.

You don’t have a shortage of things to do. You don’t have enough energy. We prefer to concentrate on the former and neglect the latter because we believe we can monitor where our time goes each day but not our overall schedule. What we found is that your chronotype—a difference in your circadian rhythm that dictates when your body needs to rest—determines your daily energy levels.

Although people who sleep from midnight to 8 a.m. are the most common chronotype, 69 percent of people have a naturally earlier or later bedtime. This suggests that seven out of ten people are expected to work while they are naturally exhausted and unenergetic.

You can, however, match the start of your workday to the start of your first energy cycle once you know your chronotype. So, how do you go about figuring that out?

  • What time do you get up?
  • What is the equivalence of those two times? (For example, the midpoint is 5 a.m. if you go to bed at 1 a.m. and wake up at 9 a.m.)

Your chronotype is determined by your midpoint:

  • You’re a lark if you get up before 3:30 a.m. (i.e. you prefer an earlier wake-up time)
  • You’re an owl if it’s after 5:30 a.m. (i.e. you prefer a later wake-up time)
  • In the middle: You’re a “third egg.”

Not only do chronotypes influence when we should wake up, but they also influence when our energy levels peak during the day. We’re most alert at these times, so we’re more likely to be active, come up with new ideas, and remain inspired and centered.

This is just a part of our research.

Special thanks to Fast Company